“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”

handmaids taleThe Brown Baggers gathered on September 20 to discuss The Handmaid’s Tale by award-winning author Margaret Atwood just in time for Banned Books Week. According to the American Library Association, The Handmaid’s Tale has been one of the “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books” since 1990.

The novel is told by Offred- her real name is unknown. She is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian state that has replaced the United States of America. In this future there are dangerously low reproduction rates, so Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that can’t conceive. Offred’s freedom, and the freedom of all women, is completely restricted- women aren’t allowed to have jobs, own property, or have money. Offred tells the story of her life, sometimes through flashbacks.

The Brown Baggers loved this dystopian novel- and also hated it. The group was divided on the book- some thought it was thought-provoking and really enjoyed how the messages in the book were portrayed. But others found it difficult to read and even upsetting.

Some readers mentioned that the caste system in Gilead was similar to other caste systems (past and present) around the world. Colors were referenced throughout the novel, and readers quickly picked up on the meanings of colors that the women in the book were forced to wear. Some also mentioned that there was a lot of reporting and spying on neighbors depicted in the novel and thought this was very reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

Most Brown Baggers agreed that they like the character Moira- who was Offred’s best friend and had a fiery, strong personality, and it was sad that we did not find out her fate. Other readers did not like the ending of the book because it was so ambiguous, but some didn’t mind this. Overall, most felt that the book was interesting and made for a great discussion!

The Brown Baggers will discuss H is for Hawk on October 18 at 12pm.

More Information:
Article about Atwood from the New Yorker
Review from the Washington Post (from 1986)

Titles mentioned:
Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Children of Men by P.D. James
Pure by Linda Kay Kline
1984 by George Orwell
Educated by Tara Westover

Banned Books Week 2018

banned-books-week-2018

Celebrate your freedom to read! Banned Books Week, which falls on September 23-29 this year, aims to bring attention to the problem of censorship. Each year hundreds of books are challenged in schools, bookstores and libraries for a wide variety of reasons. Last year alone, 416 books were either challenged or banned.

Censorship is a slippery slope. Once someone succeeds in having one book banned, for any reason, other people can argue for the banning of more books until we completely lose our freedom of unrestricted access to information.

Below are the five most challenged books of 2017, all of which can be borrowed from the JMRL catalog. For more information on Banned Books Week, visit bannedbooksweek.org.

1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – When high school student Clay Jenkins receives a box in the mail containing 13 cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends a bewildering and heartbreaking night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah’s voice recounting the events leading up to her death.

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier – Designing sets for her middle school’s play, Callie tries to overcome limited carpentry skills, low ticket sales and squabbling crew members only to find her efforts further complicated by the arrival of two cute brothers. Continue reading